By R. W. McAlister
In the first century, Romans could force the Jews to carry their goods for one mile because that was the law. After the Jews had carried the Roman soldier’s goods for a mile, they could tell them this is as far as they were going and no further. We see something of this idea when Jesus was making His way to His crucifixion. In Luke 23:26, the Bible says, “And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.”
Look also at the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:39-41: “I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” It’s from this concept that Jesus taught how Christians should be willing to go a second mile.
Notice, Jesus gives us 3 different examples which instruct Christians to go beyond the first mile and to continue on to the second mile.
First, Jesus tells us not to resist or oppose an evil person and gives an example. He says if they strike you on the right cheek turn, the left one to him as well. You have to understand that it was a great insult in the first century to strike someone on the right cheek. Most people wouldn’t tolerate such an insult and would strike back. But Jesus is telling us, “don’t retaliate; don’t get revenge” – instead, turn your other cheek to them as well.
The second thing he tells us is if someone sues you and takes your tunic or take your money, then give them your cloak as well. The giving of your cloak would be the second mile. Again this has in mind not resisting an evil person.
Third, Jesus says if someone persuades you to go one mile, then go with him two. In all 3 of these examples, Jesus is teaching you and me that we are to go beyond the first mile.
Apply this principle to our service to God. Let’s look as the first mile. Paul tells us in Acts 20:7, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.”
Every Christian should meet on the first day of the week to worship God. We shouldn’t look at this as something we have to do, but as something we get to do. Again, there are a lot of Christians who don’t embrace even this first mile of Christianity, because many will miss the assembling together and only show up once a month or maybe 2 or 3 times a year – if at all.
Not only we are to assemble with the saints on the first day of the week, we are to put God’s Kingdom first in every aspect of our lives. This means that we’ll do our best to be involved with the church and its many activities and try to spread the good news to those around us.
We find Christians who went that second mile mentioned in II Cor. 8:3-4: “For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”
Notice, they gave beyond their ability – did more than the minimum. You see, God doesn’t want Christians to be satisfied with just going part of the way – trying to get by with the least amount of effort – but He wants them to go all the way and give their best, just as God gave us His best (Jn. 3:16). Let us be so motivated.
- R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.annachurchofchrist.com/